May 10. 2018 9:59PM

Retired law enforcement officials rally for death penalty repeal

By Dave Solomon
State House Bureau

Former Manchester deputy police chief Richard O’Leary urges Gov. Chris Sununu to sign, not veto, death penalty repeal. (Dave Solomon / Union Leader)

CONCORD — A group of retired law enforcement officers is urging Gov. Chris Sununu to change his mind and support the death penalty repeal measure that has passed the Senate and House.

Citing opposition from the law enforcement community, Sununu has promised to veto the bill, SB 593. It passed the House, 223-116, in April, and the state Senate, 14-10, in March.

Much of the debate has centered on whether repeal would affect the planned execution of the only convict on death row in the state, Michael Addison, who was convicted in the murder of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2008.

Among those speaking at the State House complex on Thursday was John Breckinridge, a former Manchester police officer who was with Briggs when he was fatally shot by Addison.

“It’s time to end the cycle of violence and vengeance in our society, and end the death penalty once and for all,” he said.

Also speaking in support of repeal was Paul Lutz, who retired after a 30-year career in law enforcement as a lieutenant from the Derry Police Department; Bill McGonagle, retired assistant commissioner for the N.H. Department of Corrections; Richard Van Wickler, superintendent of the Cheshire County Department of Corrections; and Richard O’Leary, a 33-year veteran of the Manchester Police Department, retiring as deputy chief.

“We do not need the death penalty to preserve public safety in New Hampshire,” he said.

Gov. Chris Sununu has been clear in his support for the current death penalty law.

“I stand with crime victims, members of the law enforcement community, and advocates for justice in opposing a repeal of the death penalty,” he said recently. “A top priority of my administration has been to strengthen laws for crime victims and their families. Repealing the death penalty sends us in exactly the wrong direction, and I will veto this bill once it reaches my desk.”

A two-thirds majority of lawmakers present and voting will be needed to override a veto.